10 Names the Boys Should Steal Back
By Linda Rosenkrantz
You can always count on a few titters when people hear that macho John Wayne’s birth name was Marion. They’re not aware that when he was born in 1907 Marion—also the name of an infamous Washington DC mayor– was Number 106 on the boys’ list–which also included Leslie, Aubrey, Harley, Merle, Carroll, Cleo, Clair, Lynn, and Pearl (the real name of Wyatt Earp) in the Top 400.
All those names plus many more modern ones have gone to the girls, leading to a lot of talk about gender inequality, of this being a one-way street. Well, maybe it’s time to reverse that trend, for boys to reclaim some of the names they’ve lost.
It’s probably too soon for a name like Ashley, which was the fourth most popular name for girls just a few years ago, or the patronymic Addison, which reached Number 11 in 2010, and for others like Avery and Aubrey that are climbing for girls as we speak. And some once-male-accepted names like Vivian and Evelyn have been seen as strictly feminine for far too long to ever come back.
But here are a few that are not as high on the pink list, some with strong male namesakes, that well might be ready to cross back into the blue, and conceivably work for a 21st century boy.
The once popular girl name Carol has been completely off the girls’ list for more than a decade, and the last remembered Carroll is probably the portrayer of Archie Bunker, Carroll O’Connor, while Carroll Spinney (named because he was born the day after Christmas) has long reigned as the human behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Carroll is a surname with Irish roots and a musical image; it ranked as high as #164 for boys in the 1930s, then fell off the list in 1977. And for what it’s worth, this spelling was rarely used for girls.
The surname name Dana has always been somewhat split, though it’s a– ending made it a natural to be usurped by the girls, reaching as high as Number 44 in 1971. For boys, Dana peaked at 166 in 1954, then retained a steady, low-key presence until the 90s, when one of its sole visible male bearers was comedian Dana Carvey, then a top star of SNL and Wayne’s World. Boy Dana left the list in 1997, but there could be a potential for a comeback .
A classic 1940s film, The Yearling, which tells the touching story of a boy named Jody and his love for a young deer, did a great deal to popularize this name for boys—it came on the SSA list in 1946 and would reach as high as #162. But, especially in the Jodie Foster spelling, it became more popular for girls. Now, as a cousin to Cody, Brody, and Bodhi, it could make a return for boys.
Boy Kelsey is still very publicly represented by Kelsey Grammer, who was actually born Allen Kelsey Grammer, preferring to go by his middle name, and who named one of his sons Kelsey Gabriel Elias. Kelsey is an English surname with fierce in its meaning. Even while being on the blue list from 1970 to 1996, it really took off for girls in the early 90s, reaching #23 in 1992, perpetuated by female characters on a number of TV shows, but is now down to 344, so might be ripe for reappropriation.
Like several of these names, Leslie has always been more popular for boys in other English-speaking countries, where Lesley is the more common girl spelling. Boy Leslies were not unusual in the US until the early fifties; GWTW’s Leslie Howard was a popular star. Now that Leslie is foundering for girls, a comeback for boys nicknamed Les seems conceivable.
Once upon a time, Lindsay/Lindsey was very much accepted as an upscale male name: Bing Crosby gave it to one of his sons , and it was worn by men characters in several books and plays, reaching Number 629. It was Lindsay Wagner, who hit it big on TV as The Bionic Woman in 1976, that really turned it deeply pink. Recently though, two celebs have given their sons the middle name Lindsay: Vince Vaughn and Julianna Margulies. Could this be an omen? (Whitney has a similar profile, plus cool boyish nickname Whit.)
In listings of traditional Welsh names, Meredith , meaning “great chief,” is strictly male, which it still is in Wales. This began to change in the US via actress Meredith (Family Ties) Baxter and –much more recently—Meredith Viera. Despite its soft sound, it still has boy cred—actor Jay Mohr, who has some Welsh ancestry, used it for his son in 2011, perhaps starting it back on that path.
The first famous Paris was a handsome mythological prince and in Romeo and Juliet, Paris is a titled suitor of Juliet. Centuries later, there emerged media sensation Paris Whitney Hilton, inspirer of countless little girl namesakes from 1985 on, demolishing its male standing. But since girl Paris peaked more than a decade ago, it might be time for the boys reclaim their heritage
Robin began life as a medieval nickname of Robert—think Robin Hood—and has had a number of notable male namesakes, from Robin Williams to writer Robin Moore to musicians Robins Gibb and Thicke. Still #228 for boys in England, Robin, fading for girls here, is due for a comeback here as a boyish bird name.
Taylor and Tyler were two presidential names once equally well used for boys, until Taylor shot up the girls’ list to become the ninth most popular name of the 90s. With hunky namesakes like Taylors Lautner and Kitsch, Taylor the boy –and despite the ubiquitous Taylor Swift–is once again ready for prime time.
What other names do you think are ready for the boys to reclaim?
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on March 15th, 2017 at 11:09 pm
I definitely think Ariel should go back to the boys!
on March 15th, 2017 at 11:12 pm
Ashley, Addison, and Avery could still be carried by boys to me. I prefer Taylor on a boy and the first two Lindsays I knew were boys. I still prefer Harper and McKinley (Mac!) on boys as well.
on March 16th, 2017 at 12:19 am
Carey, especially with that spelling, and Jamie!
on March 16th, 2017 at 1:12 am
The only one I fully agree with on this list is Robin, and maybe Jody. The name that I want to gi back to the boys are Riley.
on March 16th, 2017 at 1:28 am
Robin and Lindsay are my faves here.
on March 16th, 2017 at 1:31 am
on March 16th, 2017 at 3:33 am
“And some once-male-accepted names like Vivian and Evelyn have been seen as strictly feminine for far too long to ever come back.” – I’m disappointed by this comment, as it is flawed.
Firstly, where is this magical cut-off point which marks the place between TOTALLY USABLE FOR A BOY and NEVER USABLE AGAIN? How do you define that? Is this magical cut-off point the same for every name, or is it purely random, based on individual opinion? Furthermore, if you think Vivian and Evelyn are too far gone, then why are Meredith and Paris showcased positively on your list when, by most people’s standards, there’s really no difference between them?
Secondly, you’ve acknowledged that these names were male to start off with. So what you’re essentially saying is: “I know that these names made a switch from predominently male to predominently female. But they can NEVER SWITCH AGAIN because… magic!”
I apologise if I sound rude or consescending (that’s honestly not my intention), but again, the statement is flawed. And I think that for it to be included in a post that’s meant to be about reviving “feminine” boy names, is quite hypocritical as well counter-productive.
Moving on, I have to say that, in my personal opinion, boys don’t need to “take back” these types of names, because they never went anywhere! They were created as male names, therefore they will always be male names, regardless of any and all female usage. And in an age where girls are being given ultimate man names like Riley James and Emerson Blake, I really don’t think that rejecting traditionally masculine names is at this point justifiable. It’s not like 20+ years ago where a boy named Jocelyn would be sure to get his butt handed to him at school. Things have changed. And even though I admit that there are still people in this world (usually adults) who might laugh, that’s not going to stop unless or until these names are revived for boys again, and become common place which, in turn, will cause people to see them as standard, and thus ‘acceptable’.
Some of my personal favourites for boys are as follows: Evelyn, Shirley, Allison, Hillary and Joyce, alongside the old Vyvyan spelling (used for one of Oscar Wilde’s sons). But in general I do tend to gravitate towards any and all “crossed over” boy names, and would be very happy to see people using them again.
on March 16th, 2017 at 7:39 am
Avery. Definitely Avery.
on March 16th, 2017 at 8:25 am
Laurie (my favorite of the list)
on March 16th, 2017 at 8:40 am
Robin! Thank you! I much prefer Robin on a boy.
I also agree with Jamie, Riley, Peyton, Morgan, etc. I really don’t care for boys names like Ryan, Cameron, Charlie, and James on girls, either, even if they are still more popular for boys.
Laurie, too, as @wintersolstice17 suggested. Since Little Women, Laurie is so boy for me.
on March 16th, 2017 at 8:54 am
@AldabellaxWulfe totally agree with you! No name is too far gone, its just your perception of it.
Also you shouldnt put Avery and Aubrey in the same bag. Aubrey fell out of favor for boys, Avery is still climbing for boys and is near the top150. Its popular for boys and has never been seen as feminine leaning.
on March 16th, 2017 at 9:08 am
I would add:
It does make you think of how many names the girls have “borrowed” and never given them back
on March 16th, 2017 at 10:29 am
Awesome list! I especially love Carroll, Paris, and Robin. (Actually, Robin is already on its way back up, so hopefully it sticks!) Also, I think Vivian has a chance too. It has such a cool sound, I think it’s wearable on anyone!
A while ago I actually used the unisex name data to create a similar list which includes many of the names you mentioned, plus several others. I’d love to see boys being named Brook, Cassidy, Gale, Loren, Raven, and Sidney again.
I think Aldabella is right – times are changing! It’s no longer so abhorrent to see our boys displaying feminine traits (like a feminine name), so hopefully soon, we will no longer have this problem of names “going to the girls” and never coming back. Hopefully soon, we’ll see a lot more crossover between the boys’ and girls’ lists. 🙂
on March 16th, 2017 at 10:58 am
Ashley is, and always has been, unisex. It is actually more popular for boys than girls, here in the UK, although it is common for girls, also. It stands more chance of becoming popular for boys than Meredith, Lindsay or any spelling of Carol, in my opinion. Robin is a name we agree on, though. I personally love it for either gender.
on March 16th, 2017 at 11:58 am
It’s odd for me to see Taylor on a list of names that the boys should take back. During my years in grade school, Taylor was one of the most popular names for girls AND boys. It never “went girl” here.
I’m surprised Kelly didn’t make the list.
on March 16th, 2017 at 1:09 pm
Yeah one of the things I dislike about the whole “names gone girl” discussion is that it reinforce the bias against girls/femininity/femaleness. Are names so “tainted” by girls? Do they have effeminate cooties now? What’s wrong with being a girl? Are boys really going to get teased for being named Aubrey? Really? If so, maybe it’s time to have a chat with those bullies.
That said, I do appreciate idea of bringing names back for all genders and would like to see more feminine names on boys to help fight this gender bias. My personal favorites are Laurence nn Laurie, Ambrose nn Rosie, and Meredith.
on March 16th, 2017 at 3:13 pm
Rory! It is my son’s name, and I’m so sick of hearing it on girls. It has a rich history as a boy’s name, and is nearly exclusively boy in Europe. But here in the States, everyone wants to tell me about a girl they call Rory. Congrats. That only became popular because of Gilmore Girls, which really dates it as a fad in my opinion.
on March 16th, 2017 at 3:39 pm
My 6 year old Son’s middle name is Evelyn…….I’ve always seen it as a boys name. I think a lot of it is our personal association.
on March 16th, 2017 at 4:40 pm
I seem to know a lot of boys/men named Ashley then…
Why not spell it Karol? It seems more male to me than Carroll.
Robin to me is like 99% percent male. The only female Robins I know are spelled Robyn.
on March 16th, 2017 at 4:44 pm
I’m a huge proponent of gender bending names; why should one sex get to “own” the name Avery for example? Why would a girl in your son’s class sharing his name bother you any more than a boy sharing his name? Haven’t we kind of moved passed the point where being confused for a girl is the worst thing that could happen to someone? If you like the name Elizabeth for a son, I say go for it!
I personally really like soft names for boys, and some of my favorite:
Elly (esp. as a nickname)
on March 16th, 2017 at 8:33 pm
Robin is my son’s name and I have received quite some criticism for giving my kid a “girly” name. I think that people should name their children the name they love the most, independent of it being traditionally for a boy, a girl, of it being trendy or too old.
My only exception would be to not use names that could disrespect religions or different cultures and of course of the tyrants of contemporary history like Adolf/Hitler, Stalin or whatever.
I just responded to a thread about using the name Juniper for a boy in the forums, so I am not going to say much other than sex and gender are social constructs that are poisonous to people and society and should be broken. I think that reinforcing girl or boy stereotypes is equally restraining and oppressive of both sexes.
on March 17th, 2017 at 12:58 am
Sidney!! It’s so fresh for girls but I really love it on boys so much more. I would use it but I feel like it’s almost as feminine as Ashley now!!
on March 17th, 2017 at 3:15 pm
I’d like to see Jordan go back to the boys’ side.
on March 18th, 2017 at 8:15 am
I think @AldabellaxWulfe and @harvest make some very good points about gender and names, and I totally agree.
With that being said, the name I would like to see increase in usage for boys is Cassidy. I know *of* male Cassidys but have only ever met female – however, to me it seems perfect for a mischievous little boy!
on March 18th, 2017 at 4:10 pm
I don’t see how surnames can possibly be gendered: they are part of women’s and men’s heritage alike. For this reason any arguing that a boy can’t be named Ashley or a girl can’t be named Percy is meaningless to me. The prevalent perception doesn’t make the name; its roots and etymology do.
Meredith, Robin, Carol, Avery and Vivian are boys’ names, whereas Evelyn is as female (or neuter, depending the stance you take on the name-gender debate) as Jane 🙂 All the others mentioned are truly androgynous.
on March 20th, 2017 at 11:16 am
I think a lot of it has to do with personal association @somemelodioussonnet. I love Rory on a boy and have it heard it multiple times, but I also love Rory on GG, so I can see it for both. Many names that girls have stolen I knew on boys growing up so it doesn’t bother me, such as Leslie, Kelly, Shelby, I would also add Shannon and Morgan. Totally agree with @sweetchariot about the reasons we have (sub consciously or not for not wanting “girl names” on boys anymore). Names I can see coming back from this list, Dana (my name), Jody (male character in Shameless), Kelsey, Leslie (know two males), and Robin for mostly namesake reasons. Lindsey/Meredith/Paris all still feel too “feminine” to me personally, and have never seen them on a male, but I’m a ok with someone else bringing them back. Other names I or other people have mentioned that I’d like to see some back are Addison/Madison (even though they are recent I know males with both of these names), Sidney, Harper (knew growing up on a male), Courtney. And some names that are still popular for boys, but girls are hiking up on such as Riley, Emerson, Cameron, Peyton, Sasha, Skylar. Names that I’d like boys to take back, but think they’ve gone to the girl side for possibly good, Kelly (knew a male growing up), Ashley, and Shelby (also knew a male growing up). Own those names!
on March 20th, 2017 at 1:56 pm
My favorites are; Kelly, Carey, Taylor, Mackenzie, and Perry (I’ve only ever known a girl named Peri, so this has always been more girl in my mind).
on March 21st, 2017 at 2:39 pm
Shannon, for sure. I 100% would name a future son Shannon.
I also love Dana and Kelly.
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